Demand for new diesel cars plummeted by a fifth last month with worries about future vehicle regulation and rising concerns over air pollution fuelling the downturn.
Approximately 81,500 new diesel cars were registered in the UK in May, down 20% on the same month last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. It represents a fall in market share of 50% to 43.7%.
The fall comes amid a flurry of negative publicity around diesel vehicles in recent months and the Government publishing its draft clean air plan in response to concerns about the impacts of diesel vehicles on the environment and people’s health.
The draft plan’s key recommendations included a ‘targeted scrappage scheme’ to take 15,000 diesel and older petrol cars off the road and replace them with electric cars, retrofitting buses, trucks and selected other vehicles with devices to limit their NO2 emissions and a large-scale increase in clean air zones (CAZS).
So what’s the experts view? What Car magazine Editorial Director Jim Holder is surprised by “the scale of the drop-off” in demand but thought drivers are responding to uncertainty about future regulation.
Environmental experts take a more direct view, attributing the drop in sales to changes in consumer behaviour sparked by environmental concerns.
Jim Holder said: “There is no clear government strategy on diesels. There has been a wave of negative headlines around the fuel but at the same time the taxation system continues to incentivise them.
“These mixed messages do nothing for consumer confidence, nor does the blanket reference to all diesels being dirty.
“Until there is clarity over where future tax incentives will lie, and what city centre charges will or won’t be imposed, diesel sales will remain under pressure.”
Greg Archer, the clean vehicles director at campaign group Transport & Environment, said: “The sales figures show drivers are losing faith in dirty diesel and are beginning to turn to clean electric alternatives.”
“Drivers know resale values will be rock bottom in a few years’ time as more towns ban or charge diesels to enter.
“Carmakers need to recall and repair these polluting monsters that continue to poison both the air and their reputation.”
Clean-air zones are being established in several towns and cities across England, and could involve charges for the oldest and dirtiest vehicles. The most polluting vehicles will be forced to pay up to £24 a day to drive in Central London from 2019 under plans unveiled by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
The Government’s final clean air plan will be published at the end of July.
Author: Joseph Lazare